ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris has vowed to ban gay conversion therapy, as pressure mounts on federal health minister Greg Hunt to crack down on the practice.
With Victoria moving to prosecute rogue religious leaders and health practitioners who claim homosexuality can be “fixed”, the ACT says it's looking at the statute book to determine how the practice can be outlawed.
"The ACT government will ban gay conversion therapy. It is abhorrent and completely inconsistent with the inclusive values of Canberrans," Ms Fitzharris told Fairfax Media.
It's understood directorate staff have been instructed to move fast, so a ban can be implemented as soon as practicable.
While the government says it's not aware of the practice still taking place in the ACT, the health minster recently met with a man who underwent gay conversion therapy in a Canberra church.
Chris Csabs came to Canberra in 2005 at age 19, hoping to be "cured" of his attraction to men.
Growing up in the church, he had been told gay people were "disgusting", "perverted", and even possessed by demons.
When he realised he was gay at age 11, that became part of the way he saw himself, part of his identity.
"I thought there was something innately wrong with me because I was gay," Mr Csabs said.
"I was desperate by the time I was 16 to find a fix for it, so when I was introduced to this course I jumped at the chance. I would have tried anything."
Mr Csabs said he saw the Living Waters course as a "salvation from something he hated about himself".
For nine months, he met with a group of about 20 others with "broken sexualities" at a church in Canberra every week.
While there were people with sex addictions or who had cheated on their spouses in the group, the group was marketed to him as an "ex-gay course".
The group would read through a textbook, full of debunked theories on sexuality from the 1950s and 1960s that blamed domineering mothers and absent fathers for making children gay.
They would listen to testimony from a speaker before splintering off into small groups and confessing their sins of the week.
"It was very much like an AA group actually, but it was all with the intention from going from gay to straight," he said.
Living Waters has since closed down and the Canberra church has apologised for hosting it.
Mr Csabs kept practising what he'd learned until he was 23 and an "absolute mess".
"I didn't know how to relate to people properly. I'd cut myself off from a lot of friendships and had been taught to place boundaries around myself in relationships that were extremely strict," he said.
"I was depressed, praying every day that God would either heal me or kill me. I was literally praying for a car accident or something like that. I'd never kill myself but I was hoping God would do it. I could not face living a life so lonely as I had for the last seven years."
It was then Mr Csabs' parents intervened, after reversing their opposition to homosexuality.
"When they saw I was so broken they took me aside, talked to me and helped me to accept I was gay and realise it was not a sickness that needed healing," he said.
Mr Csabs said while it is difficult to outlaw gay conversion therapies, the ACT could set up a watchdog like that in Victoria that allows people to report counsellors offering services targeted at changing someone's sexuality or gender identity.
However he acknowledged he wouldn't have reported his therapy to anyone when he was undergoing it as: "I was desperate and they were selling a lie".
"Honestly generational change is the only way we can tackle the ideology that homosexuality is a sickness or a broken sexuality needs to be fixed," Mr Csabs said.
"It's also about people coming out and talking about their experience of being a gay person who is also Christian."
The petition is at change.org/endgaycures
Do you know more? Email email@example.com